Moment zero – all the fuss


My moment zero was a cold winter’s day in late July 1995. I started the day along a highway outside Port Elizabeth, reckoning I should get a lift to Cape Town “within the hour”. Eight hours later I was still waiting, this time on a bench across from the city library, with a bus ticket I had bought with my final claim to earthly riches. I could hardly string two words together on the topic of my future – and reality gnawed on my backside like a rabid street dog …


What was all the fuss about?

I feel a strange desire to ask myself why I was so eager to return to South Africa at the beginning of February. Here are the four main reasons:

1. I had a problem with submitting myself to tests to prove I am healthy enough to stay in this country.

2. I knew if I were to remain in Taiwan I would have had to start with new classes, which meant I would have had to start functioning again in an environment where I would have had to submit myself as an anonymous foreigner (or then as “Mister Brown”) to an employment relationship where I would have been the one selling my labour, and therefore I would have had to act according to a particular predefined idea of a “foreign teacher”.

3. I realized that I had just enough money in the bank to be able to go home within a few weeks.

4. Credibility (and possibly self-respect). I knew if I had decided not to implement the plan (as was the case at the end), I as main character in my own story would have to concede once again that “I decided to stay after all,” rather than “Revolution! The Writer Goes Home!” I desperately needed to call out in joy, rather than to whisper something in shame …

It is like one should expect: Life is a wild mare – she bounces like a crazed animal, and you’d better make sure you stay in the saddle.